WILD WORLD OF COMFORT FOOD
May 07, 2016 12:20PM, Published by Alix Wall, Categories: Eat+Drink
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BY ALIX WALL AND PAM KESSLER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA FREELS
Comfort food comes in countless forms. It’s found in every culture. It’s the food we crave for a sense of well-being. It’s grilled cheese, noodle soup, fried chicken, pizza and burgers. Once relegated to the dark days of winter, it’s back in style, on the menu at five-star restaurants and blackboards at small cafés. Here are a few of our favorite places for feel-good comfort food in Walnut Creek.
Raised in the south, Debbie Shavar knows there aren’t many emotional potholes a home-cooked meal can’t patch. Together with her husband David, Shavar owns BUTTERCUP GRILL & BAR, where the enormous menu features her family recipes and comfort comes with every meal. Biscuits are made from scratch and serve as the base beneath poached eggs and rich hollandaise sauce in Eggs Benedict ($11.99). Classic comfort comes in the form of Bacon Mac n’ Cheese ($10.99) in all its creamy goodness made with three types of cheese. “Mom’s Meatloaf,” has a tangy sweet and sour glaze served with fluffy garlic mashed potatoes ($13.99). Buttercup’s Ultimate Garlic Bread ($7.99) is worth the calories: a perfect round of sourdough drenched in herbal butter is scooped out and a bulb of roasted garlic inserted in the center. Squeeze the “meltingly tender” garlic onto the crispy bread and bite. Heaven! 660 Ygnacio Valley Road, (925)932-2763, buttercupgrillandbar.com. -AW
It’s all about the signature sandwich at the CHEESE STEAK SHOP, a 30-year-old downtown mainstay that dishes up what loyalists say is as close to an authentic Philly as you can get. Sliced sirloin is chopped and cooked on the griddle with onions, sweet and hot peppers then stuffed in a fresh house-baked Italian roll and topped with cheese sauce. (Sandwich sizes range from 7 to 10 inches and prices $9.99 to $12.99) Extras include mushrooms, spinach, bacon and garlic. This no-frills grill is perfect for man-size meals and hangovers. Simple and sinful, eat one with a side of curly fries. 1626 Cypress Street, (925) 934-7017, cheesesteakshop.com. -PK
In Japan, nothing satisfies like a piping hot bowl of ramen. At Walnut Creek’s new RAMEN HIROSHI, chef/owner Hiroshi Tun has five varieties on the menu. His signature Tonkotsu Ramen features a rich miso-steeped pork broth cooked for 18 hours then served with braised pork belly, soft-boiled egg, lotus root, kikurage mushroom, seasoned bamboo shoot, Tokyo leek and red ginger ($11.) “Ramen is a very popular comfort food in Japan,” says Tun, “because it’s filling and hearty.” 633 Bonanza Street, (925) 942-0664, ramenhiroshi.com. -AW
Ramen is also on the menu at MIXED GRAIN. Here delicious noodles are soaked in a vegetarian broth and desired protein (beef or chicken) is added along with a poached egg. ($9) But regulars make a beeline for signature Korean comfort food—Bibimbap ($12)—a big bowl of rice topped with a variety of colorful vegetables, sweet and spicy chili paste and creamy egg. Nine condiments accompany every meal including spicy cucumber salad, kim chi and seaweed. “People who are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free love our food,” says Mixed Grain owner Woo Jun. “The food here is tasty and good for your digestion.” Delicious too. 1615 Bonanza Street, (925) 933-6778, mixedgrain.com. -AW
Of all the soul-warming soups, Vietnamese pho may be the ruler. A steaming bath of anise envelopes you from the first sip of broth followed by bites of tender meats, slippery rice noodles, springy cilantro greens and spicy jalapenos. When locals yearn for pitch-perfect pho, they head to family-owned KEVIN’S NOODLE HOUSE where the diverse menu delivers with 60 choices (under $10). The broth in the Pho Bo beef noodle soup is considered one of the best in the county. Spike it with plenty of sriracha and hoisin sauce. Happy Slurping! 2034 N. Main Street, (925) 933-4746, kevinnoodlehouse.com. -PK
At CORNER’S TAVERN, Chef Adam Carpenter gives American comfort food a farm-to-table twist and pairs it with craft beers and artisan cocktails. Try his Reuben Tacos, corn tortillas ($16 for three) stuffed with tangy slaw and corned beef. Or Fried Chicken, which Carpenter characterizes as “a better version of the fried chicken your mom would make.” Available only on Sundays ($30 as part of a three course prix fixe) the chicken spends 24 to 48 hours in a brine, then gets dipped in buttermilk and a rice flour batter-for extra crispiness. His Grilled Cheese ($12) features a gooey blend of aged white cheddar with a Swiss Emmental sandwiched between whole wheat sourdough with flecks of rye for flavor. A garlic confit spread with Dijon mustard adds a surprise flavor. A smear of bright orange tomato jam on the plate for dipping makes your taste buds explode. Simply divine. 1342 Broadway Plaza, (925) 948-8711, cornerstavern.com. -AW
Derreck Johnson’s HOME OF CHICKEN AND WAFFLES combines
two of the greatest mood enhancing foods on one plate—tasty Fried Chicken and Waffles
soaked in maple syrup. (Combos range from $12 to $15) Each bite releases a
heady torrent of sticky, meaty sweetness packed with savory crunch. Soul food
at its best, the vibe at this retro diner is casual and friendly where a mix of
family and friends chow down on some serious southern cooking and leave ready
to conquer the world. 1653 Mt. Diablo
Boulevard, (925) 280-1653, homeofchickenandwaffles.com. -PK
Burrata cheese—mozzarella filled with cream—imparts a rare sense of satisfaction with its rich, gooey goodness. At 54 MINT FORNO, owners Claudio Ricciolini and Daniele Carsano import their burrata from Italy. It’s showcased in a delicious appetizer salad with roasted peppers ($13) and on the oval-shaped Campana pizza, dressed with baby arugula and cherry tomatoes ($17). “Italian cuisine is based on regional cuisine, and regional cuisine means comfort food,” says Ricciolini. “Our dishes are traditional and have been passed down from family to family.” But don’t stop with the pizza, 54 Mint’s Lasagna Emiliana (16) features fresh pasta layered with hearty ragu, béchamel and mozzarella. Mangia! 1686 Locust Street, (925) 476-5844, 54mintforno.com. -AW
Maybe it’s the mélange of spices, the creamy-sweet coconut milk, or the deeply homespun spicy sweet flavors, but a dish of Lamb Karahi curry ($15) at SARGAM INDIAN CUISINE leaves you deeply satisfied. Fork-tender boneless lamb is cooked with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, curry and ginger and pairs perfectly with hot rice tempered with mustard seeds. Fresh baked Naan ($2.50) comes stuffed with onions, topped with cherries and nuts, or simply buttered and layered. At this popular restaurant, time honored traditional Indian cuisine has been pleasing Walnut Creek patrons for the past 25 years. Plus they dish-up an All-You-Can-Eat lunch buffet seven days a week. Nothing fancy, but tasty and comforting. 140 N. Civic Drive, sargamindiancuisine.com. -PK
Here are a few more Walnut Creek Magazine favorites for comfort eats.
At the HICK’RY PIT, the breakfasts are huge and the racks of tender ribs with house barbecue sauce are award-winning. hickrypit.com
Hands down, GENOVA is the go-to deli for fresh handmade meat, turkey and ricotta cheese raviolis with companion sauces. genovadeli.net
When Americans crave comfort they turn to burgers and fries. MOOYAH serves them up fat, fresh and delicious loaded with an array of free toppings and sauces. mooyah.com
This deli may be Italian, but MORRUCI’S makes killer Reuben and hot pastrami sandwiches. moruccisdeliwalnutcreek.com
The savory crepes at CREPES OOH LA LA are construction worker-friendly but the best bite here is the King Lias layered with Nutella, coconut, bananas and mounds of whipped cream.
If its fresh baked cookies you’re looking for, there is nothing as comforting as the snickerdoodles at DENICA’S. denicascafe.com